Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WHAT THE *F* IS GOING ON IN MILWAUKEE?


First of all, let's start this off right:






Now we can get right to the meat of the matter: I was back in Milwaukee last week and as I've mentioned before, I cannot get over how gluten free friendly it is! Now, I live in Los Angeles which is a very health conscious city, but I still really have to seek things out. Just the other day, I struck up a conversation with a woman behind me in line at Whole Foods whose basket was packed with gluten free treats. She was on vacation from Colorado and couldn't believe what a hard time she was having eating gluten free in L.A. I immediately pointed her in the direction of L.A. based Gluten Freeways blog, without who, I swear I would starve!

So what gives? I sent an email and was fortunate enough to hear back from Nancy Linneman who with Bev Lieven founded the Milwaukee Celiac-Sprue Crew in 1982, and here is what she said, "I think it is just that celiac is not easily diagnosed, and Milwaukee is a big city, so many people demanding gluten free food makes store owners and restaurants have to have it available".


Um, that's it? I don't know what I was expecting, maybe giant statistics of celiacs living in Milwaukee or a crazy spike in the rate of autism in the area - but it's pretty simple - you just need to let people know what you want. I've only lived 100% gluten free for about a year now, and already I find myself just shrugging my shoulders and happy to find one item on a menu I can eat - instead of putting forth the extra effort to talk to a manager, or sending an email to let them know how much I would like to see more gluten free options on their menu. Why am I suddenly so afraid to be a pain in the ass? That has never been an issue for me before - so why now?


I'm grateful that some of the larger more "corporate" restaurants are offering gluten free menus - it's given us a lot more options for dining out. But personally, I would rather support a local business. I was really inspired to see this take shape in Milwaukee; now it's glaringly apparent what an organized community not afraid to speak up can bring about.



My first night out, we went to a local restaurant called Transfer Pizzeria which offers gluten free pizza AND beer!!! Not only that, but they use local and organic produce when in season and can actually tell you which farm it comes from - imagine that! It was Saturday night and it was packed, which is always a good sign of good food to come. We sat at the bar while we waited for a table and -- pardon me if I get emotional for a minute - to sit down at a bar and order a beer was a HUGE moment for me. I ordered a gluten free New Grist, and the bartender asked me if I had tried the Redbridge yet. I'm sorry, but to have a bartender give me a choice of gf beer, much less know what the hell a gluten free beer even is almost knocked me off my stool.


So let's be honest, I was already sold on this place. And then there was the pizza. Oh dear God, it was so good! I wish I was more of a prolific food writer so I could give you a better sense of how tasty this pizza was, but I'm afraid I'm a little more caveman-like in my descriptions. It's either food good, or food bad with me. I will devise my own rating system - I give it five out of five cavemen - food good!






The next day, it was off to Stack'd, a groovy neighborhood burger bar. Stack'd sources everything locally, from grass feed beef, to Wisconsin artisinal cheeses, to Miller bakery gluten free buns... hold up! that's right - gluten free buns!!! Ok, so the bun fell apart a bit - but it was a bun on a burger! Frankly, this was best hamburger I have ever had. I was really taken aback at the difference in the quality of the meat since it was grass fed – a topic covered in the great movie Food Inc. - if you haven't seen it yet - do it!






And did I forget to mention how well it paired with my gluten free New Grist beer? An easy five out of five cavemen!









Next stop was Saz's. They are famous for their ribs and their very own gluten free BBQ sauce - which I am now kicking myself for not buying a bottle to bring home. Another amazing gluten free dinner was had in Milwaukee. I was also pleasantly surprised by my server's knowledge of what was gluten free on the menu - I really felt like I was in good hands here and didn't have to worry. That alone is priceless. Plus, it was $5 Ketel One martini night... woohooooo! Five drunken cavemen!





And no trip home would be complete without a trip to my favorite - Eddie Martini's.


A gluten free friend on Twitter recommended I try Marchese's Olive Pit, but I wasn't able to go - next time! Also on my gluten free to do list is a visit to Tess, which is an almost entirely gluten free restaurant, and supposedly they bring gluten free bread to the table - in the words of my friend Micah, "shut up, I know!"


I also found this great article on eating gluten free in Milwaukee with a list of restaurants - click here.


It wasn't just the restaurants that were rocking my world, it was also the grocery stores. I could not believe how many gfree items were available at regular stores that I can't even get here at Whole Foods in Los Angeles. And then there was the glory that is the Gluten Free Trading Company. If you haven't heard, it is a store where EVERYTHING is gluten free - no label reading required! They also have an online store, be sure to check them out.


I gained more than a few pounds on this trip, I obtained a new awareness that simply asking for what you want and need can generate a significant amount of change, and that there is true power in numbers. I'm learning it's ok to be a bit of a pain in the ass, as long as you are a polite one. And I love that each time I go home, I discover more and more reasons to love Milwaukee!


Until next time... may the gluten free force be with you!


Love your,

GFF


P.S. Oh yeah... I "attempted" another video blog!







13 comments:

  1. Wow! Impressive! I think we all need to start demanding that LA embrace the gluten-freebies and offer us the variety and quality we deserve! Let's start the revolution!

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  2. haha... yes! let the revolution begin!!! (and I think we should totally start a club called "the gluten-freebies")

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  3. For reals! I think we should start an LA gluten-free Meet Up and we should go to restaurants and force them to cook us yummy gluten free food! Spread the word!

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  4. I totally think we should do a Los Angeles gluten free meet-up. I know that Fresh Brothers has, in the past, held events for me and my readers. I would love to organize another one at Fresh Brothers (or similar places).

    Thanks for the shout out!

    www.glutenfreeways.com

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  5. I really love this post. I'm about an hour away from Milwaukee and had no idea there were so many gluten-free options. By the way, my husband brought home a sixer of New Grist, and even though I'm a little lost without my stouts, I was pleasantly surprised. :)

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  6. Hi- I'm from the Milwaukee area. Here's an idea for you - start a gluten-free club and plan outings to places that you want to frequent. We have a gal here in Milwaukee that has done this and writes a blog about it. When you can bring 15-20 of your new found friends with you, instruct them on the problems of cross contamination, and the desire you have to frequent a place that can meet you needs - they typically will bend over backwards to do so. Whole Foods will also do a gluten-free cooking class as well.

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  7. For those who like new grist, try REDBRIDGE. I think it is made by Anheuser Busch (sp?). My non-gluten free husband will even drink it. As for restaurants in Mke, there are a bunch more- Beans and Barley, Roots Cellar, PF Changs, Maggianos, Pasta Tree- to name a few. My two daughters and I have been GF for almost a year, and really do not have much trouble. Also, we have learned to ask for what we need. I rarely just eat what is on the menu, and chefs are usually more than happy to help make a salad out of a sandwich or wrap and sandwich in romaine lettuce for me! On another note, if you are creative and detail oriented you could start a business offering consulting to restuarants. There are a few online who offer to come in and help develop GF menues for them. I bet it would be VERY lucrative in a city that is just now catching on. Good luck!

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  8. I am glad you enjoy the wonderful gluten free options in Milwaukee. I would like to let you know about another great gluten free grocery store and cafe. A Gluten Free Frenzy is a totally gluten free grocery store with a small cafe. You can get a freshly made sandwich, pizza, cupcakes or cookies--all gluten free--while you shop in a totally gluten free store. A Gluten Free Frenzy is located west of Milwaukee in Brookfield.

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  9. Hey Gluten Free Freak...I work at a new seafood restaurant in downtown Waukesha. We pride our selfs on our large gluten free menu...including a beer batter fish fry thats great. Please come in and check us out. Our place is called, "Key Westconsin" and we're at 331 Riverfront Plaza. We'd love to dazzle your taste buds!! Ask for me, Bridget

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  10. This was awesome!

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  11. Very cool!
    I also offer Gluten-free Cooking classes. At Good Harvest Market in Waukesha, Dec. 5,2011 6:00pm will be GF Holiday Baking including an appetizer, Yummy time-saving Gluten-free 5-in 1 Cookie recipe, Kringle, and Christmas Morning Baked French Toast. Call 262-544-9380 today.

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  12. This blog entry was such a major help to me! I'm not gf, but wheat free which gets confused a lot with people. Luckily the GF products tend to just steer clear of wheat anyway so I tend to live the GF life mostly. I'm going to be in Milwaukee for the weekend and will be trying all these places you mentioned. How awesome of this city for caring!

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  13. Just found your post. I'm in Milwaukee and almost 2 weeks into being celiac diagnosed and I'm dying for food options! Roots Restaurant in Milwaukee, just north of downtown, was extremely knowledgeable in gluten free and lactose intolerant options. I had fresh halibut on what they would normally serve with the talapia. So very thankful and delicious!

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